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Mr. President, Time is of Essence

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By Biola Kazeem

May 29th. Inauguration Day in Nigeria. For most Nigerians though, the day meant something else. It meant the day change came to Nigeria. It marked the enthronement of good governance in place of the impunity that reigned supreme while former President Jonathan pretended to be in charge. It marked the beginning of true leadership that the country badly needed after GEJ and his horde demonically stripped it bare without a care while proclaiming transformation.

In the months before elections, Nigerians withstood everything Jonathan and the PDP threw at them- including the treasury- to effect the change the APC spent billions drumming into their heads. The need for change was made even more urgent as Jonathan completely abandoned his duties without giving a damn in the last days of his administration as the nation came perilously close to asphyxiation in the face of acute fuel shortage and complete collapse of the nation’s rickety electricity supply which has cost untold billions but has never generated anything above 6,000 MW at any point in time.

Nigerians expected Buhari to resume office and quickly set to work or, as repeated almost to a point of tedium by the APC themselves, hit the ground running.

20 days in and it hardly feels like power has changed hands. If there is a change of direction in how the nation’s affairs are being piloted, it is hardly noticeable. It almost feels as if Buhari has slipped into office through a back door rather than step into it from the main entrance. Yes, he has attended the G7 and AU Summits and Nigerians have been treated to professionally taken pictures of his activities in both places but not much else. He has seemingly gotten the Chadians and the Nigeriens onside and there seems to be more unity and oomph in the push against Boko Haram. However, one cannot honestly chalk these down as quick wins.

The fact is, 3 weeks in, Buhari has not set any sort of agenda for his administration or the country. If the task of rebuilding Nigeria requires urgency and surefootedness, Buhari seems to be oblivious. He seems to be under the illusion that the days start to count when he is ready and not on May 29th 2015. Even quick wins like drastically reducing the number of aircrafts in the Presidential Fleet have been ignored. At the moment, no one knows if the entire fleet is in service or there have been culls. There has been no major announcement suggesting that frugality is now the order of the day so as to seize the high ground in the fight against the opulence in government.

While the entire nation was engulfed in a conversation about N9 billion that will allegedly be paid to newly elected legislators at a time when almost all states in the country cannot pay salaries of their workers, mum was the word from the presidency. Long queues still pervade the entire nation and many Nigerians still buy fuel at prices above N87 even with Jonathan out of office and resting doubtlessly on his loot in Otuoke.

Even the appointments President Buhari has made are hardly inspiring, certainly unimaginative and seem eerily similar to the kind of decisions that defined Jonathan’s government. Appointing Femi Adeshina and Garba Shehu at the same time for the same task however you look at it is at variance with the vows of a slim government made on the campaign trail. Already, there have been discordant tunes from both men and if they are working towards the same purpose, they have a funny and disjointed way of showing it.

21 days in and there is no Chief of Staff in place, no SGF and the approved 15 advisers sent to the Senate over a week ago remains just that; a number with no names. Even the small matter of who is in charge of security of the president has been a subject of controversy. The less said about his bungled intervention in the NASS leadership tussle, the better.

In all, Buhari has been extremely slow out of the blocks and where there has been action, there hasn’t been enough thrust, oomph and certainty. At the moment, put quite simply, it appears President Buhari is still testing the waters. If this is what the APC had in mind when it promised to fly out of the blocks, then clearly they have misread the mood of the nation. It would seem as if the APC is either dazed by the fact that they are now truly in power or almost paralysed by the enormity and complexity of the problems the hapless Jonathan has bequeathed them.

Of course the scramble for power and influence seems to have taken precedence over showing readiness and capacity to solve the problems they have numerously promised to solve. If they are in doubt about the kind of speed, certainty of purpose and clarity of vision Nigerians yearn for, they need not look further than how Malam Nasir El-Rufai has set about his task of rebuilding Kaduna State.

A clear direction and a sense of urgency is what Nigerians expect from President Buhari. Up till this point, there has been neither. It is entirely plausible to expect that things pick up steam in the coming weeks. That however, cannot undo the fact that Buhari has spent almost his entire honeymoon period gazing and moping at his problems, while Nigerians expected him to roll up his sleeves and start the long and arduous process of solving them. The problems are numerous, the task of solving them is onerous and time is limited. If Buhari thinks he has all of four years to solve them, he is wrong. He has 21 days less than that. We are counting on him just as we are also busy, counting the days.

*Kazeem is a Public Relations Consultant

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